How long does it take to learn guitar?

When you begin guitar the whole process of learning can seem very mysterious. The most common question I get from beginner guitar students is ‘How long will it take to learn?’ This is a reasonable question. When I get on a plane to fly somewhere my first question is ‘How long will it take?’ The difference with the plane trip is it is passive. I don’t need to do anything. I will arrive at the same time as the pilot. The pilot determines my time of arrival. In the case of learning guitar the student largely determines the time of arrival and the teacher is more like a navigator ensuring you stay on course.

The first determining factor in a student’s time of arrival is knowing the destination. The student must have a clear goal or outcome in mind. The best way to do this is to write down a list of songs you hope to one day play. At G4 GUITAR we call this the ULTIMATE SONG LIST. You can get a free copy from our downloads by joining our free online course. Just visit our website at

The next determining factor is speed. In my early years of teaching I found overwhelming number of students learning guitar were not really sure about why they were really learning guitar. Without a clear reason there is nothing driving you to practice. I began asking questions like ‘Why did you originally decide to take up guitar?’ Here is a list of responses I recall;

  1. I was inspired by a great concert, guitarist or song
  2. A friend is learning
  3. My parents wanted me to learn an instrument
  4. A sibling was once learning but gave up so there was a guitar in the house
  5. I needed a hobby other than watching TV
  6. Want to inspire my children to play music
  7. Seemed like the cool thing to do
  8. The game ‘Guitar Hero’ inspired me
  9. Was watching Youtube and came across some easy lessons
  10. I was given the guitar as a gift so I thought I’d better learn

Now as you can see most of the reasons are not exactly compelling. I personally do not see guitar as a passive hobby. A passive hobby to me means movie watching or stamp collecting. Guitar requires daily practice and a certain level of discipline. If your motivation to learn is because you needed a hobby other than watching TV then you are unlikely to have the drive that will push you to consistently practice an hour or more a day.

The first stage of learning guitar can be fun and exciting as you put some basic chords together but then comes the first hurdle. It may be a chord or a picking pattern that just seems impossible. It is at this point that many give up or worse yet they just shy away from the hurdles and stick with what they know. For many this the F chord or bar chords or reading music.

The trick is to take the hurdles head on. When I was 14 years old I remember having to play on stage for the first time in front of my whole school. I was so terrified that for weeks I was trying to plan how I was going to get out of it. Problem was the teacher was knew it and made sure there was no way I was going to back out. So about a week before I resolved myself to the fact that I was not going to escape what seemed like a fate worse than death. I took the hurdle head on and practice for hours everyday. On the night I had to perform I was still extremely nervous but also quietly confident.

To be continued…

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